Thatcher, Thatcher, Revolution Snatcher
April 18, 2013 Leave a comment
To be a conservative, William F. Buckley once said at a fundraiser, means to have a less than totally harmonious relationship with our times. This is because it is precisely the deepest roots of our civilization that are out of fashion. It is draining to always find yourself always on the defensive, in the face of what is perceived as progress.
It doesn’t help when it appears that we have no help from the party that styles itself as the standard-bearer of British conservatism. We live under a Conservative-led government that, until UKIP became a genuine threat, seemed to spend most of its time trying to impress people who will never vote Conservative. We have a coalition that has decided to be the most pro-homosexual government in British history. All well and good, but it wont secure a single seat for the Tories.
Lady Thatcher’s death hit me harder than I imagined it would. Yet I was happy outside of St. Paul’s yesterday; happy to see so much love for the woman, and happy to meet people who took the time to come from as far afield as Liverpool, Ireland, and even Israel to line the route. Seeing the dignified funeral and attending a wonderful tribute event afterward with the soundest people on these British Isles emphasized the need to rebuild her movement and renew the vigor of the Thatcher era within the Conservative Party.
Talk to anybody involved in the Conservative Party under Thatcher and their attitude is summed up by Wordsworth: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!” That feeling is not there among Tories today, young or old. There is no sense we are doing anything important.
Wordsworth was talking about the French Revolution; and we love Thatcher precisely because she was our revolutionary. By the time she gained the premiership, state control of industry had been the consensus in Britain for decades. The powerful trade unions had advanced to become a major pillar of the Establishment.
Now, it was time to put the socialists on the defensive. It was their turn defend institutions that were losing the faith of the public. For the most part, intellectuals and the creative classes played no part in generating this disenchantment; ordinary people simply realized that the existing institutions were not working.
Martin Van Creveld says there will always be war because men love war, and women love warriors. We will always love revolutions, too, and its a lot more gender inclusive.
Margaret Thatcher struck at the roots of the enemy’s philosophy, and she succeeded admirably. Britain went from a country where one could wait months to get a phone line installed, to having the most competitive telecommunications industry in the world. She created a nation of homeowners where once a third of the population lived in state housing. Her privatisation of industry and her crushing of Stalinist union leaders like Arthur Scargill led to a fundamental shift in British society, where holding shares would become more common that trade union membership.
Her success is evident from the fact that nobody since she left office, whether Labour, Liberal, or Conservative, is calling for the nationalization of industry. Neil Kinnock may still denounce Thatcher’s reforms for causing hardship in some quarters, but he wont do it. Similarly, Labour supporters today tend to be embarrassed by the fact that their party opposed the right for council tenants to buy their homes.
It was, of course, a revolutionary time beyond Britain. It was a time of fundamentally conservative revolutions, from Chile to Eastern Europe. Finally, we were putting motherfuckers like Ceausescu up against the wall. These revolutions had their dark episodes (Chile comes to mind), but also produced fine specimens of liberal states, like Estonia.
A word also needs to be said about Thatcher and class. Thatcher helped to foster a new class consciousness, which emphasized what really mattered: the struggle between the taxpayers and the tax eaters. I have long quipped that if I were to start a conservative/libertarian political movement, I would call it the Workers’ Party. Thatcher gave the majority class of private sector workers the political representation it deserved, something I believe they have lost and today’s Tories must give. Martin Durkin described this awakening, that resulted in Britain’s working classes fleeing from Labour, in City AM recently:
“To the horror of the Left, Thatcher, re-defined the class struggle. The socialists argued that “the workers” were being ripped off by “the bosses”. But when workers looked at their wages and saw almost half had gone, they knew it wasn’t the bosses who had taken it…“Socialism” was reduced to fleecing hard-working people in the private sector to keep the middle class public sector gravy train rolling”.
Prior to Thatcher you had to be part a union before you could work in some industries. Strikes could be called without vote, and very often there was no secret ballot. So who was on the side of the worker?
My hope and comfort at this somber time is that the death of Thatcher, the tributes, and the debate will inspire us to complete her free market revolution in this country and beyond.